MadSci Network: Physics

Re: How powerful can a laser beam get?

Date: Mon Apr 21 19:46:12 2003
Posted By: Robert Arts, Faculty, Physics, Pikeville College
Area of science: Physics
ID: 1050138985.Ph

To give you an idea of power generated by a few things, first view the 
list below.

Power Levels 
Laser Pointer/CD Laser: 0.1-10 milliwatts 
Light Bulb: 10 -100 watts 
Industrial Laser: 1 kilowatt
Military Laser/ABL/SBL/THEL: 100 kilowatts - 10 megawatts 
Nuclear Power Plant: 1 gigawatt 

Currently the worlds most powerful laser resides at The National Ignition 
Facility (NIF) at the University of California Lawrence Livermore National 
Laboratory (LLNL).  It is a 192-beam, 1.8-megajoule, 500-terawatt, 351-nm 
laser for inertial confinement fusion (ICF) and high-energy-density 
experimental studies.  The building that contains the laser and its 
operating parts is that size of a football stadium.  

Aside from the factors such as sizes and cost, the limits to a laser's 
power come from the ability to contain and focus the beam itself.  Keeping 
those in mind and the advances made by the NIF, there is really no upper 
limit to the power that a laser can have.  As time passes and technology 
continues to advance the power of laser will likely grow as well.

Below is a table of prefixes assigned to the number indicated.  Imagine 
multiplying those numbers by the value of the prefix.  

milli = one thousandth (one divided by one thousand)
kilo = one thousand
mega = one million
giga = one billion
tera = one trillion

For additional information on the NIF:

Current Queue | Current Queue for Physics | Physics archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Physics.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2003. All rights reserved.